Telling someone that their loved one has died in a car accident is one of the hardest things that a human being can do, an Auckland doctor says.

For Road Safety Week this week, the Herald has spoken to five emergency services staff, who collectively have more than 120 years' experience in their fields and have attended at least 600 fatal crashes.

For Dr Mark Friedericksen, an emergency medicines specialist at Auckland City Hospital, he's at the receiving end of it all.

He says each day, he and his staff get nervous about what might come through the doors.


"No matter how experienced or good you think you are, you're going to come across something that you've never seen before."

He can recall a recent horror day on the job.

"It was actually Waitangi Day, I can't remember how long ago. We have four resuscitation bays here at the Emergency Department. Basically, for half the day it was full with serious road traffic crash victims," he says.

"A lot of our patients don't require immediate surgery, but it just happened to be one of those days where the organisation was pushed to capacity because four patients in that day required to go to theatre for operating. "

Looking back on his 22-year-long career, Friedericksen can recall the very first time he had to give a family the bad news.

He says it was in South Africa, where's he originally from.

"It was unfortunately two groups of the same family that had caused the person to die," he says.

"And the emotions were just unbelievable."

Dr Mark Friedericksen says it never gets any easier telling families they've lost a loved one in a car accident.
Dr Mark Friedericksen says it never gets any easier telling families they've lost a loved one in a car accident.

He says every situation is different and present different challenges.

"The hardest thing to actually do is keep quiet and let people process what you've told them," he says.

Friedericksen says sadly, you can only learn from experience and more people getting hurt or killed on the roads.

He says resilience is absolutely vital.

"We're a very busy hospital, healthcare goes on."

New Zealand's road toll:

• 134 people had died as of May 4, 2018, compared to 127 at the same time last year.

• 40 females have died compared to 29 at the same time last year, and 94 males have died compared to 98 at the same time last year.

• 118 fatal crashes have taken place, compared to 116 at the same time last year.

• More over-60-year-olds have died, than any other age group, with 38 fatalities so far. There were 18 deaths among those aged 20-24 and 30 people aged 25-39 have died.

• March is the worst month so far this year with 41 deaths. January is the next worst with 36 deaths.